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The Power of Language

January 17th, 2018

Words mediate differences or exacerbate disagreements.

 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:6 NIV

My thoughts and comments today are about,
“the power of language.”

Language is vital for communication and coordination of common efforts. Without communication, many efforts would be futile, achievements minimal, relationships challenging, and misunderstandings numerous. We don’t think much about words, but we certainly use a lot of them. According to Google, a 2013 University of California study concluded that women speak an average of 20,000 words daily, compared to 7,000 words for men. Wisely, I resist endorsing an opinion on that statistic. Imagine what a more current study might include that included texting, Facebook posts, and other social media.

I would note that it matters what you say, and how you say it, more than how much you say. Verbiage and volume are not as important as veracity. Imagine the difficulty of our daily interactions without them, or a conversation when you could not understand another’s words because of language differences. Communication is important. Communication that edifies is essential.

Since you were very small you have been learning and using words while expanding your vocabulary. It is important that you consider the awesome, and sometimes awful, power of the words you speak and the potential effect they have on yourself and others for help or harm. “Words kill; words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 MSG.

With words, you can heal a heart, or wound one. Words mediate differences or exacerbate disagreementsWords speak truth, or spread lies. Words can build friendships, or destroy trust between friends. Words can encourage or dishearten. Words can applaud others or criticize. What you may not realize is that when your words wound someone, your misuse also hurts you in ways you will not at first recognize. Choose them wisely. Speak them kindly.

As a child, I learned a simple rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But that isn’t really true, is it? Many of us bear the lasting imprint of words spoken long ago, whether for good or harm. Some are spoken by us; some were spoken to us. Uncharitable words can leave a hurt far deeper and remaining longer in the heart, but also in the one who speaks them. Careless words cheapen communication and lessen the creative power of your words for good at other times.

God’s feelings about this are clear. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.This should not be!” Read James 3:1-11 NIV. God views your words very seriously because He knows their power and potential for good or evil, for benefit or harm. God warns, “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. . . men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Read Matthew 12:33-37 NIV.

Remember that with just a word God created all that we now see and know, and sustains all that He created in the same way. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Hebrews 11:3 NIV. You and I certainly do not possess God’s creative power, but as you are made in His image, your words are much more than mere sounds spoken and forgotten. Your words hold seeds of life and blessing, carrying a greater, spiritual dynamic well beyond mere language.

Paul warned that God weighs your words. The gravity of that will cause you to pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV. Whatever your heart privately harbors will ultimately be exposed through your words. Here is practical, Godly advice. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to consider the power and potential of your words, for better or worse.

Christian Communications 2018-107
Website and archives: allenrandolph.com
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Words

May 20th, 2013

“A word out of your mouth . . can accomplish nearly anything – or destroy it.” James 3:5 MSG.

You possess the power to bless or curse; you can do either but you cannot do both.

My thoughts and comments today are about “words.”

Words have a longer life span and far greater importance than you may realize. The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21 NKJV. James gave good advice when he wrote, “Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19. I always thought that a strange pairing of words, until I observed how anger fuels how you hear and what you say before you realize the havoc and hurt your words can cause. Choose words well; use words wisely.

You possess the power to bless or curse; you can do either, but you cannot do both. Choose words wisely. James wrote, “No one can tame the tongue . . sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out in curses against those who have been made in the image of God. So blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth – this is not right!” James 3:10.

Every time you use words positively you enhance their power; used improperly, you devalue their meaning. Sometimes slang and definitely profanity or vulgarity devalue the importance and strength of everything else you say. Their destructive power touches the one who speaks them and those who hear them – long after their sounds fall silent. That is true of the words you hear and read, as well as the words you speak. See Matthew 15:18 NLT. You live in a vulgar culture, increasingly profane. Civility and propriety are discounted as unimportant. Promises are defaulted; truth is compromised. Be decidedly different from the culture surrounding you.

Words have power. They strengthen or harm friendships, inspire or dishearten, encourage or discourage. Words of affirmation empower dreams in the heart. Words of doubt and disbelief predict fear and failure. All words have power; the more important you view person speaking them, the deeper and more lasting their effect on you. Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63. Let that be your objective as well. There is unimagined authority within your spoken words. John writes of those who “overcame the devil by the word of their testimony.” Revelation 12:11.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, taught me appreciation for words in a book about the origin of words. My Dad taught me the practical integrity of words, “A man is only as good as his word. Don’t say something you don’t mean.” The words of my Mom and Dad influence my life long after they were spoken; words can endure beyond lifetimes. The Bible taught me the enduring quality of Godly words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35.

Life taught me the double-edged potential in words, “A gentle answer turns away wrath; but a grievous word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1-2 NIV. Make every word count; weigh them carefully; share them gently. Here’s how God says this should work, “God wants you to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything . . watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”  Ephesians 4:15/29 MSG. Each word can be a gift from God through you. My prayer is as David’s, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14. See Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that your heart will be pure and your words pleasing.

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Wholesome Words

August 31st, 2012

“What you say can preserve life or destroy it.” Proverbs 18:21 TEV

A cleansed heart is the source of a wholesome vocabulary.

My thoughts and comments today are about “wholesome words.”

My fourth grade teacher put a fascinating book into my hands that would shape and equip my adult life, though its significance was unbeknownst to me at the time. That book was about etymology, “the study of the sources and development of words,” that cultivated my appreciation for language. As is often said, “Words mean something.” That’s true all the time, not just when you intend for your words to mean something. Words carry a weightiness you can easily fail to realize even at the time you are speaking them. In conversations, you leave blessing or turmoil. Your words can validate or invalidate a person to whom or about whom you speak. I want my words to lift lives, not diminish them.

Know this about words; words inspire or dishearten; they induce healing or inflict trauma. Hearts have been wooed and won by tender, loving words, as well as mortally wounded by angry, hurtful words. With words, endearing friendships or enduring enemies are formed. Solomon wisely observed, “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequence of your words” Proverbs 18:21 TEV. In perilous times, national leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill have, with their words, rallied nations to great courage and sacrifice, while Adolph Hitler’s words spawned unparalleled hatred and evil in the soul of a generation of Nazi Germany, bringing devastating destruction across a continent. See Proverbs 12:18 NKJV.

Consider with me the spiritual etymology of your words, their “source and development.” Have you ever thought to yourself, “Where did that come from?” Your words are consequential and reflect their source. See Matthew 12:36-37 NKJV. A wise person weighs their words carefully, or better yet, prayerfully. Before speaking, you should weigh your words because others will, and God does. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things . .” Read Matthew 12:34-35 NKJV. A cleansed heart is the source of a wholesome vocabulary. Monitoring what comes out of your mouth is less difficult when you guard what is in your heart.

A friend recently commented about another that, “They had lost their filter.” They were describing a person who frequently indulged themselves in saying what they thought, without regard to their words’ propriety, origin, or effect. Speaking your own mind isn’t always best if you want to have friends, or be one. Filters are important. “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NLT. The words you speak are too relationally important and eternally consequential to be handled casually, without careful examination and prayerful forethought.

The Bible teaches, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . that it may benefit those who listen.” Read Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV. Their effect on others is the standard by which words are judged. Do your words pass that Bible test? “Do not be rash with your mouth . . therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 NKJV. You will experience a lot less regret.

My prayer for you today is that your communication is always honoring and edifying.

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Words with Friends

July 16th, 2012

“Let the words of my mouth . . be acceptable in Your sight.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV

For better or worse, your words create your world.

Today my thoughts and comments are about “words with friends.”

Words seem such small things when spoken; their sound lingers only a moment but their effect can endure in hearts and minds for a lifetime. “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. (Josh Billings) For better or worse, your words create your world, and shape the world of others around you.

Conversation is the foremost interaction between individuals, the means by which you communicate thoughts and feelings, convey understanding, and express delight or displeasure. I recently read this relevant quote, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” (Dorothy Nevill, 1826-1913) I think the latter is the more important, yet also most difficult of the two to master. Some of us just seem to have too many tempting moments to resist. Read Ecclesiastes 5:2 NKJV.

Within your words is the awesome power to repair a broken heart or a fearsome potential to wreck a life. Solomon understood that diverse potential as he wrote, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit . . Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 15:4/18:21 NKJV. When a child, a person takes two years to learn to talk, but the rest of their life to choose and control their words. It is no challenge to recognize that simple reality.

The Bible recognizes our common dilemma of an unruly tongue, “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body . . And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body . .” Read James 3:2-12 NKJV. What is easy to say becomes hard to forgive, and not always possible to repair. Careless words usually fill the vacuum left when you have nothing worthwhile to contribute. Read Matthew 12:35-36 NKJV.

Let your words be always kind and gracious, loving and generous, true and trustworthy, uplifting and edifying, and healing to others, not hurting them. See Colossians 4:6 NLT. “Until we all . . become mature . . speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him . . the whole Body grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work . . building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.” Read Ephesians 4:13-19/29-30 NIV. It is not only what you speak but why – always for another’s blessing and benefit, and to the glory and honor of Christ. “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18 NKJV.

But how? Is there an answer? Of course, but the answer is in God not yourself. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NKJV. Before you speak, consider carefully if your words pass the litmus test of Godly conversation – “acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.”

My prayer for you today is that your words reflect the One who is the Living Word.

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